Leaders to bond at Malibu retreat

Caitlin Cunningham ’09 has never had a hamburger from In-N-Out Burger. If she were to bite into one of California’s most popular hamburgers, she would break out into hives all over the outside of her throat and throw up for hours. Cunningham has nothing against the burger that most people love, but she is allergic to beef products.

Having lived in Singapore for most of her life, Cunningham wasn’t exposed to beef as a child. In Singapore, the dominant religion is Hinduism, a practice that does not believe in eating beef, regarding the cow as sacred.

Many of Cunningham’s friends in Singapore were Hindu religion, so she never really came into contact with beef, even though beef is available in Singapore. ecause of her lack of exposure, she is allergic to beef.

“I didn’t get used to beef when I was growing up, so while my body was building immunities to foods, it never built one to beef,” Cunningham said.

She was first exposed to beef at a camp cookout in New Hampshire when she was 11 and had a horrible reaction to it. She began to throw up, which lasted for hours, forcing her to spend the night in the nurse’s office.

However, she thought that she had just eaten a bad burger. It wasn’t until Cunningham’s second encounter with beef that she realized something was wrong.

“Later that summer when I was visiting family in Los Angeles, I had my first taco with beef, and I had a similar reaction to the hamburger incident,” she said. “I broke out in hives all over my throat and was throwing up.”

When she returned to Singapore, she was tested for allergies and the results proved that she was indeed allergic to beef.

Her body had never consumed beef before and therefore rejected it, according to the doctor. Due to this, she carries an EpiPen in case she consumes beef unknowingly.

After moving back to the United States at 14, she did accidentally eaten beef, but not enough to make her sick.

Cunningham had a small bite of a meatball, not knowing it was a beef meatball, but rather than get sick she only felt nauseous.

Her allergy doesn’t prevent her from being in the vicinity of beef, unlike some allergies such as peanuts.

“I mean, I have never actually wiped my hand on a beef patty before, but I know that I can be near it because I smell beef all the time and I don’t get nauseous.”

She is curious about what a steak would taste like.

“One day I’m going to have steak and take the consequences of getting sick after.”

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